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Hello, one-third point of 2022
Greetings from somewhere over the Atlantic seaboard, as I scribble this from my favorite aisle seat on the right side of a United flight. As my personal and business travel resume approximations of their pre-pandemic agendas, I’m finding comfort in the routines that have languished over that time. Meeting a work associate in the gate area; wearing a concert tee-shirt and getting a nod from an airport employee; chronological sorting of reading material from the accretion disk around my work bag into a syllabus for a 2-hour flight. Old places and journeys surface some familiarity - SFO has renumbered its gates; United seems to be handling operational issues with more grace; ride sharing apps roar past rental cars in convenience and cost.
Early Morning Flight (Multiple Meanings)
On my first trip to the San Francisco Bay Area in over two years, my routine of staying on Eastern time had me up for a pre-dawn random walk by the bay. A bit over twenty years ago, I attempted to rollerblade over one of the small bridges on that same path. Misjudging the dampness of the wood, the incline of the bridge approach and my dexterity, I used my rotator cuff as a springboard to avoid a head injury, landing in the Stanford University Hospital emergency room (thanks, Geoff Baehr, for the ride). My attempt to gain some air over the bridge failed spectacularly in 2001; in 2022 I find myself nursing another injury (hockey related) to the same shoulder but mentally insistent on revisiting the scene. I enjoyed walking over the (now better pitched) bridge in the same spot, grabbing this shot of some shore birds on their own pre-flight breakfast cruise. Subtle changes for the better, all around.
Remembering A Mentor
That 2001 fall began a series of difficult events that continued into the Fall of 2001 and the dot-com bust. As I was planning my trip home, then with my latest injury, I received news that my mentor, friend and customer George had died from lung cancer. I attended his funeral with my arm in a sling, unable to properly wipe my eyes.
A few years ago, George’s son reached out to me and asked meaningful questions about his dad; when financial markets collapsed in 2008 I felt that part of George (he ran a major block trading floor) would have been supremely disappointed. There are lessons I remember from his very informal mentoring (often over expensive breakfasts or late afternoon phone calls, always when the market had closed for the day), all of which gave flight to my career arc in the ensuring two decades.
1. Use your title to open doors. George never, ever used his title (he was quite senior at the bank) for anything other than access to the nice dining room. My “accessible leadership” style grew from watching how he interacted with his entire team.
2. Your job funds your passions. George’s were music (he bore an uncanny resemblance to Phish’s Trey Anastasio and also played the guitar); his family; and his ranch. He owned a satellite phone (long before cell service had permeated the Rockies) to be able to work with the trading floors while immersed in his very analog mountain operation. A former co-worker phrased this more succinctly: Your job pays for your expensive hobbies. I still follow my passions, but I have time and money for them because of my day job (also a passion, but I’m an arm’s length or two away from the real magic of our business).
3. It’s acceptable to admit concern. George would say “I’m freaking out a bit” when there was a lack of clarity around a deliverable or its risk management.
4. Simple and direct wins. After days of designing a compensating transaction system, recovery tools and monitoring harnesses, George suggested we de-layer the complex solution by simply calling the person with the paper trail for the elusive record we were attempting to recreate. The corollary to freaking out a bit was to make things simple.
Thank you, readers, for your support over the first year of Creating Space.
Notes: Copious amounts of Phish, especially re-listens to the April 20-23 shows from Madison Square Garden, and the Allman Brothers band (currently learning the bass lines to “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”)
Words: On a huge Jennifer Eagan binge right now, thinking I am perhaps the last person in America to discover her prize-winning work. “A Visit From The Goon Squad” and its recently released sequel “The Candy House” are deep, dark, twisty mazes of musical passages in time and space.
Pictures: I finally upgraded my phone and I’m thrilled with the optical and digital zoom. Three years ago I ditched my digital SLR for a lightweight mirrorless camera; now I may go entirely phone camera.